Base initiated depolymerization of polycarbonates to epoxide and carbon dioxide co-monomers: a computational study Academic Article uri icon


  • High-accuracy CBS-QB3(+) calculations were used to obtain the free energy barriers for several polycarbonates of interest to undergo alkoxide back-biting to give the corresponding epoxide and carbon dioxide. Free energy barriers to epoxide formation were modest for most polymeric alkoxides (12.7-17.4 kcal mol -1 ), and they were higher than for the same starting material to give cyclic carbonate (10.7-14.6 kcal mol -1 ). Poly(cyclopentene carbonate) differs: epoxide formation has a lower free energy barrier (13.3 kcal mol -1 ) than cyclic carbonate formation (19.9 kcal mol -1 ). These results explain why poly(cyclopentene carbonate) depolymerizes to cyclopentene oxide when treated with a strong base, whereas propylene and styrene polycarbonates depolymerize to their respective cyclic carbonates. Recycling via regeneration of the monomer represents the ideal method for producing material of the highest quality. © 2013 The Royal Society of Chemistry.

author list (cited authors)

  • Darensbourg, D. J., Yeung, A. D., & Wei, S.

citation count

  • 35

publication date

  • January 2013